5 things Mavericks must do to become title contenders after Kyrie Irving trade

Tyler Watts
Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving
Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving / Tim Heitman/GettyImages
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What Dallas Mavericks must do to become title contenders: 3. Defend

The defense has been the Mavs' biggest disappointment this season. Head coach Jason Kidd has preached it since taking on the job in the summer of 2021. They vaulted into the top ten in defensive rating last season and reached the conference finals on the back of their defense. Dallas held the Jazz to 100 or fewer points in four of the six games in the first round of the playoffs before limiting the Suns to their three-lowest scoring contests of the season to knock out the top seed.

This year, they have sunk to 23rd in defensive rating. Dallas has never found its footing, and their defense was weakened by the trade. Dorian Finney-Smith was sent to Brooklyn and Maxi Kleber has played in just 22 games. Those were the team’s two best defenders coming into the season. Kleber is nearing a return from a torn hamstring, but one player cannot fix the team’s defensive issues.

The Mavs are the worst rebounding team in the NBA, and they give up way too many easy shots at the rim. They signed JaVale McGee in the offseason to cover these issues, but he has struggled to stay in the rotation.

Coach Kidd is going to play small and try to outscore the opposition, but they need to be in the top 15 in defensive rating to have any shot at title contention. Even with the best offense in the NBA, that is pushing it. Finishing top ten in both offensive and defensive rating is the hallmark of a title contender.